New report reveals continued government failure to track and report data on Covid-19 deaths of nurses and other health care workers
National Nurses United’s (NNU) updated report Sins of Omission, reveals continued failures by local, state, and federal governments to track and report data on the Covid-19 deaths and infections of nurses and other health care workers as well as widespread resistance by the hospital and health care industry to provide this critical information. The March report, Sins of Omission: How Government Failures to Track Covid-19 Data Have Led to More Than 3,200 Health Care Worker Deaths and Jeopardize Public Health, is an update to NNU’s September 2020 report of the same name.
“The lack of transparency about nurse and other health care worker deaths due to Covid-19 is a travesty,” said Jean Ross, RN and a president of NNU. “Our state and federal governments must hold the health care industry accountable and require hospitals and other health care employers to publicly report the Covid-19 deaths of their workers. We cannot forget the deaths of so many health care workers, including 329 registered nurses, who were forced to work without the personal protective equipment they needed to do their jobs safely.”
“We call on the CDC to fully recognize aerosol transmission and to update and strengthen its Covid-19 guidance to provide protection from inhalation of virus in the air,” said Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN and a president of NNU. “It is unconscionable that so many nurses and health care workers lost their lives. We look forward to the impending issuance of an emergency temporary standard on infectious diseases by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to provide comprehensive occupational health protections to nurses, other health care workers and all essential workers.”
NNU’s report has researched and documented the deaths of more than 3,200 health care workers as of Feb. 11, 2021, using publicly available information, such as media reports, social media, and obituaries. This number is likely a conservative estimate because many cases are not reported by traditional news sources. Also, many deaths are not reported by public agencies. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported only 1,390 health care worker deaths as of Feb. 11, 2021, and it does not collect occupational status in most cases.
According to Sins of Omission, Covid-19 continues to have a disproportionate impact on registered nurses of color, as of Feb. 11, 2021:
- 170 RNs of color (54.1 percent)* have died of Covid-19 and related complications, reflecting the broader disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on communities of color in the United States. Just under one quarter (24.1 percent) of RNs in the United States are people of color.
- 83 registered nurses (26.4 percent)* who have died of Covid-19 and related complications are Filipino. Filipinos make up 4 percent of RNs in the United States. Just under half of registered nurses of color who have died to date have been Filipino (48.8 percent).
- 53 registered nurses (16.9 percent)* who have died of Covid-19 and related complications are Black. Black nurses make up 12.4 percent of RNs in the United States. Nearly one-third of RNs of color who have died to date have been Black (31.2 percent).
*Percentages are of the 314 registered nurses for which race and ethnicity data is available.
Other highlights from the report:
- Just six states (New York, California, New Jersey, Illinois, Texas, and Florida) account for 176 (53.5 percent) of the 329 total registered nurse fatalities.
- Federal agencies do not reconcile their publicly reported information. For example, as of Feb. 11, 2021, the CDC reports the death of 1,390 health care workers overall, while the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Covid-19 nursing home dataset reported 1,567 deaths just of nursing home workers by Jan. 31, 2021.
- As of Feb. 11, 2021, NNU has compiled from current public records 791,158 cases of Covid-19 infection in health care workers, which we believe is an undercount because only 18 states are providing infection figures for all health care workers on a daily, semiweekly, or weekly basis.
- NNU’s 791,158 cases of Covid-19 infection in health care workers is 197 percent of the 401,530 cases reported by the CDC. As of Jan. 31, 2021, CMS’s Covid-19 nursing home dataset reports 536,508 health care worker infections just from nursing homes, 134 percent of the cases reported by the CDC on Feb. 11, 2021.
National Nurses United is the largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses in the United States with more than 170,000 members nationwide.